Saving money with the internet.
August 14, 2012 7:40 AM   Subscribe

What are some less obvious ways to save money using the internet? Examples below the fold.

So I love going to the movies, but it's hella expensive. So I have a Google Alert set up for "Fandango" and "Coupon." Once in a while, it'll turn up one of those Groupon-style daily deal sites with a 2-for-1 Fandango coupon (so that my girlfriend and I can go for the price of one.) Back when I needed a subscription for Time Out New York and knew they gave them out for free sometimes, I had a Google Alert set up for that as well.

What else is out there that I could be using to save some cash and haven't thought of/doesn't know exists? Hacks like the Fandango thing are great but also stuff like "RetailMeNot has coupon codes for lots of internet retailers," or "TouchArcade always publicizes big iOS game sales" or "Dealzmodo exists" or "Steam has huge sales every winter and summer."

I subscribe to way too many of the daily deal sites already, so a list of those would be not so useful.
posted by griphus to Work & Money (25 answers total) 121 users marked this as a favorite
I drink a ridiculous amount of soda, and when I do, I enter my bottle caps into the My Coke Rewards web widget. I get coupons for free food, free movies, and other fun stuff. It takes awhile, but it's cool getting something for nothing every once in awhile.
posted by xingcat at 7:45 AM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Signing up with every retail store you shop at will produce a bounty of coupons in your email account.
posted by COD at 7:54 AM on August 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

FatWallet offers cash back on purchases from some well known retail websites if you sign up for their site and follow their instructions. Even if you don't want to use their links, their forums are chock full of extreme couponer type people with good advice.
posted by desjardins at 7:59 AM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

There are fan sites for Target and the three big drug store chains (CVS, Walgreens, Rite Aid) that have great coupon matchups and deal alerts, and frequently have copies of store ads a few weeks in advance so you can see if items you need will be on sale soon. I think a lot of the info on these sites is distilled from slickdeals, which I find hard to use. I've become a Rite Aid junky over the last year or so and frequently make money on my purchases there as a result of reading deal matchup sites.

Ebates will also give you money back for any purchases you make online. It's generally 2-6%, depending on the retailer, and they deposit it into your paypal account once you reach 10 bucks or something. I've been better about remembering to stop there first when I'm making online purchases.
posted by jabes at 8:07 AM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

This trick works well for groceries but less well for things like music where there is a better suggested purchase algorithm: shop on the internet to limit your browsing and just buy the things you really need. It works for me. My online shopping grocery cart contains far fewer items than my IRL one.

For Amazon, I use camelcamelcamel for big ticket items - I set my price and it alerts me to the thing I want is selling on the cheap. You can use it for lots of deal tracking type things.
posted by MuffinMan at 8:11 AM on August 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

Random things that have saved me cash in the past:
  • Lightbulbs. No, really. The bulbs you buy in Wal-Mart or whatever? Rated for about 1000 hours, maybe 3/$1.00. If you go online and look for commercial vendors of long-life incandescents, however, you'll find bulbs rated for 20,000 hours that cost a little over $2.00/each.
  • Pretty much anything that you can buy in massive bulk and that doesn't spoil. Batteries are a good example. Got a device that burns through AAs? Yeah, you *could* go to Costco or wherever and load up -- but online there are (again, business-oriented) vendors that will sell you a carton of hundreds of those things for a per-unit price that's a fraction of what you'll pay even at a "wholesale club".
  • If you like music or DVDs (or even games), SecondSpin is awesome. They're a massive CD/DVD/game clearinghouse -- they buy and sell used discs. I live in a college town so we have more than a few places to get used CDs and DVDs -- and SecondSpin beats them all, no question. Sign up for their mailing lits and you'll get regular coupons (often buy-one-get-one free or 40% off or other heavy discounts). I buy about $100-200 of discs from them per month, and they're worth every penny. You can also sell your used discs to them, so if you tend to have changing tastes it's a great way to recoup some of your costs.
  • If you haven't already, consider Amazon Prime. If you purchase a lot of stuff on Amazon (like, say, consumables) the savings in shipping add up, and the difference between having to buy something locally because you need it by the end of the week and being able to order it online because it's cheaper *and* you know it'll get here in time can be substantial. Obviously this is only a savings if you do or plan to do a fair amount of shopping with Amazon, so you might want to do the math to double check before you sign up...
  • - find eBay typos. It takes a lot of patience, but you can find a fair amount of good stuff, particularly electronics, sold by people who can't spell. (I've purchased a couple of cheap "IMB" servers this way.)

posted by -1 at 8:20 AM on August 14, 2012 [22 favorites]

Depending on where you live, if you check in on the Yelp app when you eat out, you can get deals on your food (i.e. buy one entree, get one 50% off, or I've gotten one that was a free small pizza before). You can create a throwaway Facebook account for this if you want to.

The throwaway Facebook account can also be used for "Like"-ing businesses that offer discounts or deals for doing so.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:21 AM on August 14, 2012

So I love going to the movies, but it's hella expensive. sends mail alerts of opportunities for free film passes, generally to reviewer screenings. In the past week I've received alerts for

For a Good Time, Call...
2 Days in New York
Hit and Run
Hope Springs
The Campaign

posted by ylee at 8:35 AM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

BetterBidding is a good way to figure out how to game Priceline and Hotwire to get the best prices, which for Priceline at least (I haven't used Hotwire) generally gives you at least a 60% discount on hotel rates. The two main features it has for Priceline are that it lists out the specific hotels that are assigned to each star level (which is normally secret), and has a place for people to post what successful bids they have gotten, so overall you can have a good idea of what exact hotel you will get assigned and what the lowest amount you can bid for it is.
posted by burnmp3s at 8:57 AM on August 14, 2012 [5 favorites]

I think Amazon Prime is a bargain if you only buy a couple things a month.

It's $8 a month to avoid driving to the store for many things. There's no minimum, so if you need a furnace filter or whatever you can go to Amazon and you'll have it in two days. Check that off. That's a big plus for me. No need to batch things up and order $25 at a time. Need a single iPod sync cable? Done. Need a charcoal filter for that craigslist microwave? $8 and it'll be here on Wednesday. Done.

Having the Prime membership has made Amazon my first stop for just about everything, including things I probably would never have considered a few years ago.

On sharing the account; I share my prime membership with my wife and two kids. None of them have access to my payment information. They have their own Amazon accounts, which are tied to mine only for purposes of sharing Prime.
posted by chazlarson at 9:06 AM on August 14, 2012 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Oh, just to head any more (useful!) advice off at the pass: I have/love Amazon Prime and buy almost all my household stuff through it.
posted by griphus at 9:12 AM on August 14, 2012

I have an iPhone app called BookScouter that lets me scan or type in the ISBN codes on books and tells me who will buy them back and for what price. Between Amazon and, I sold five books for $80. (Amazon gives you credit; ckybooks deposits the money into a paypal account.)
posted by desjardins at 9:15 AM on August 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

I use freecycle to get rid of and acquire things that aren't past their usefulness but are no longer needed by the original owners. I hit up ShopGoodwill for similar pickups that might not be in my area.
posted by tilde at 9:42 AM on August 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Oh, someone else reminded me - Alibris allows you to search for books and other media by finding people by seller name (I buy a lot of Goodwill sourced books there from GW accounts) and by location (might be a way to cut down on shipping costs by buying localish to you or localish to whomever you're gifting them to). Save money and natural resources. :)
posted by tilde at 10:07 AM on August 14, 2012

I bought a Nook and got an online account with my local library. For $79 I've read about 200+ books this year alone. And no late fees! I've recently found out I am eligible for some kind of alumni library thing too so I'm going to look into that to expand my options. If you're a big reader its an amazing deal.
posted by fshgrl at 11:25 AM on August 14, 2012 [4 favorites]

I've scored numerous free magazine subscriptions and a couple of $20 gift cards through

(I admit to cheating a bit. For the promotions that require you to get your friends to sign up, I've created several gmail/yahoo email accounts.)
posted by mudpuppie at 12:05 PM on August 14, 2012

On the iOS app sale front, I use an app called AppShopper on my iPad; it's a universal app, so it works on the iPhone and iPod Touch too. It's from the TouchArcade people, so maybe you already know about it, but just in case...

It has various tools for app discovery, which I like, but the money-saving part is this: I tell it which iPhone and iPad apps I'm interested in, and it notifies me whenever one of them changes in price (or gets an update). It also keeps a history of price changes for each app, so I can see if a given app has frequent sales or none at all, and thus make an informed decision about when to buy.
posted by ManyLeggedCreature at 4:37 PM on August 14, 2012 [2 favorites]

the best time to buy electronics and other big items online is just after christmas - lots of stuff goes on sale. I have gotten new computers, a fridge, a home theatre setup all for really good prices this way.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 5:28 PM on August 14, 2012

I've been living on my bike for the last couple of months and part of the challenge of it is my refusal to ask anyone for a lift to the store or wherever. But no way am I going to cart home big packages of whatever, I'd never before thought to have things like toilet paper / paper towels / etc shipped but often wally-world will ship for a buck -- how sweet is that? Cheap as hell anyhow and then ship for a buck, hard to beat that one. Fatwallet often lists the good deals shipped for a buck.

And if I remember correctly you've got a dog -- there's another large item, bags of dog food, petsmart will ship free if over fifty bucks I think, probably amazon can do better, I don't know, I don't have a dog so I'm not keyed into it. But on a bike, dog food is absolutely something I'd get shipped here.

I'm sure you're onto selling through Craiglist, I sold a bike rack and a hard drive this weekend, $130 out of thin air. The bike rack someone had left out here at my condo complex -- we do that, something good doesn't end up in the dumpster usually, we set it in the laundry room or by the dumpster, I got $80 by picking up the bike rack while taking out the trash, and listing it on craiglist.

Bike parts. Huge margins on that stuff; I've bought things from Jenson, they're absolutely trustworthy, a great outfit, great customer service. I generally only pay retail if something breaks and I need it right now, else check jenson or whoever else.
posted by dancestoblue at 6:51 PM on August 14, 2012

COD: "Signing up with every retail store you shop at will produce a bounty of coupons in your email account."

This works for restaurants too. Many of the big chains have e-clubs, and some local restaurants around me do too. Most of them generally offer some sort of coupon or deal (like a free appetizer) for signing up, another deal/free item for your birthday (anything from a percentage off to a free appetizer or dessert or even a free meal - most of the deals are good for anywhere from 10 days to the entire month of your birthday) - plus other coupons/deals throughout the year.
posted by SisterHavana at 10:24 PM on August 14, 2012

Travel: Sign up for Travelzoo's newsletter. It has some awesome deals if you pay attention. Set up airfare alerts on You can also tell Kayak what your budget is, what kind of vacation you want (ski, lay on beach, family-friendly), where you're flying out of, and it will tell you what destinations meet your criteria. They also have a page with last minute deals - for example New York to Moscow is $619 RT on Air France (ends today!).

We've also gotten some great deals through our credit union (25% off car rentals) and through an auto racing club my husband belongs to (25% off certain hotels).
posted by desjardins at 8:12 AM on August 15, 2012

the best time to buy electronics and other big items online is just after christmas - lots of stuff goes on sale.

Also, people return a lot of stuff they didn't want. It's perfectly good, but stores can't sell it as new, so they deeply discount it. We got a blu ray plays that hooks up Netflix, Hulu etc for about $50 at Best Buy.

Also also, Lifehacker (or maybe Consumerist?) posts Black Friday & Cyber Monday deals in an easily searchable format before they come out. IIRC you can set up alerts.
posted by desjardins at 8:15 AM on August 15, 2012

"blu ray player that hooks up to Netflix, Hulu, etc."
posted by desjardins at 8:16 AM on August 15, 2012

I buy seedlings and plant plugs on eBay. Last year I bought some small Japanese maple saplings for about $12. This year I saw similar sizes at my local nursery for $75-100. Same thing with groundcover plugs, hostas, ferns and houseplants. It's not the same as a nursery but it's been a huge money saver for me.

I also buy prescriptions online, sometimes for 3 months at a time. Sellers on Amazon sell vitamins and pain killers from Costco - its not worth it for me to be a member for various reasons.

If you sew, good fabric is much cheaper online.

Paperback swap has relieved my shelves of worthless books (in the sense that they weren't worth anything on Amazon or at used bookstores) and has been surprisingly fruitful resource for cookbooks, home DIY books, etc.

Framing art is much cheaper online. Again it is not the same as taking your art to a local framer so you can discuss in person, but from a price point of view, it is fantastic.

Art prints are another great niche on the Internet. Places like 20x200, Etsy and dozens of others have some gorgeous pieces for extremely affordable prices.

Eyeglasses and sunglasses.

Travel insurance.

Tires! I always forget this one. You can buy tires and have them shipped to a mechanic. Great deals even with shipping. is underused - much cheaper than most local pharmacies and there are frequently huge coupons, plus you can get rebates at ebates or big crumbs. By logging in there, and using a coupon, I frequently get 30-40% off with free shipping and no obsessive coupon clipping!
posted by barnone at 6:47 PM on August 16, 2012

Textbooks are usually cheapest on and are guaranteed no matter who is selling them, new or used. - Kanaan Minks
posted by kanaan_minks at 7:24 PM on August 19, 2012

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